Photo of the Week: Week 40

This week’s photo was taken on a calm and overcast morning out at Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park last week when my good friend Wayne Simpson and I ventured out hoping to shoot sunrise and make the most of the beautiful fall colour. While we didn’t get much of a sunrise, the overcast skies and rain early on left us with fantastic light and conditions for detail images. We had a great time exploring with our telephoto and macro lenses looking for intimate scenes down in the valley bottom. This image was one of my favourites from the morning and was actually bit more of a challenge to make than you might think. Because I was working so close to the subject, even with my macro lens stopped down to f16, I didn’t have enough depth of field to render all of the leaves and drops in sharp focus. I ended up taking several exposures (5 in this case) and moving the point of focus for each one to capture everything in the scene sharply. I later combined the layers together in Photoshop using the auto align and auto blend layers commands. I haven’t done much of this type of focus stacking in the past or had a lot of success with the auto blend mode but I think it did a pretty good job on this one and I’m quite pleased with the natural looking results. I’ll definitely keep this in mind as an effective tool for future use on this type of image.
As always, thanks for stopping in to have a look. I hope you enjoy this one!

Photo of the Week: Week 39

This last week was a busy one for me and it was a bit of a challenge to squeeze some shooting time into the schedule. Given the limited time I had, I decided to stay a little closer to home and went out to Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park which is located just east of Cochrane, only about 30 minutes from where I live in north west Calgary. I had heard much about this new provincial park but had yet to spend any time exploring or shooting there so I thought I’d give it a shot. I was going in kind of blind that morning, arriving well before sunrise, and not having the slightest clue where I should go or set up for first light. Normally, this isn’t really the way you’re supposed to do it, but I wanted to challenge myself and just try to be as open as I could to what I was seeing around me and do my best to react to that. It was actually quite refreshing to look at a completely new area without any preconceived ideas of images I would make. I found that I was able to relax so much more and just focus on the scene as it presented itself and work on the images as I saw them. While there are certainly merits to pre scouting your locations ahead of time and planning out your shots (techniques I often use as well by the way), I find this type of blind approach to not only be a great creative exercise, but also a really enjoyable and relaxing way to work.

This image was taken just as the sun was making it’s way over the horizon and through the thin cloud cover in the east. I was really drawn to the beautifully soft, low angled light that was bathing the grass and trees in this scene. The low light also allowed me to use a longer exposure (5 seconds) and capture the motion of the grass blowing in the wind. I shot two horizontal images and stitched them together for the final result below.

I will definitely be visiting Glenbow Ranch again to do some more shooting and exploring. The park is much bigger than I first realized and I know now that there is much more to see. If you’re in the Calgary or Cochrane area, I’d encourage you to go check it out and take a walk or a bike ride on one of the many trails and pathways that wind through the park. Fall colour is in full swing out there right now and it’s absolutely beautiful!

Photo of the Week: Week 38

When I set out on this challenge of posting a photo each week, my goal was to push myself to get out shooting more often and be creating images more consistently. Some weeks this has been pretty easy to manage where I’ve had really productive days out shooting and come back with a nice selection of images to choose from. This past week however, it definitely felt like more of a challenge than it has in a long time. I returned from a morning of shooting out in Kananaskis Country pretty disappointed in myself after shooting very few pictures and getting nothing I was happy enough with to post here on the blog. I suppose it’s to be expected that I’m not going to knock it out of the park every time out, but it still stinks to feel like you completely struck out. I guess the key is just to keep going out and keep trying to make images. The consistency was a big part of what I was trying to establish with this project and I do feel like I’m achieving that goal at least.

Thankfully, I did build myself a little bit of a buffer into the project rules that let me select an image to post from within the previous two weeks of the post date. So, this week’s photo is from a recent trip about a week and a half ago up to Bow Lake where I spent some time focusing on the details of the plants and grass along the shore. I went in kind of a different direction for me with processing this image so I’m curious to hear your thoughts on it. I was going for a little softer looking image so I purposely didn’t pull in the black and white points like I normally would, or push the colours and contrast. I was aiming to keep the soft pastel hues intact and create more of a mellow and peaceful tone in the image. To be honest, I’m a little on the fence with this one. What do you think, does it work for you or not?

The Assignment

While on the oopoomoo workshop in Trochu last month, we were given a rather challenging assignment/contest to take part in. After getting rained out on our sunrise shoot one morning we were back at the St. Ann Ranch drying out and Darwin proposed the assignment to us as something to work on until the conditions outside improved. The assignment was to make and submit an image that was taken within the building, using only one camera and lens, no tripod, and only in camera processing. It was a great challenge for sure, and we saw a lot of very creative images come from it at the critique session at the end of the weekend. Sam and Darwin are so good at teaching and encouraging you to open up your eyes to what’s around you and to see creatively. It’s certainly an area they’ve challenged me on lately and something I really want to work to improve on in my own photography.

While I was only able to submit one image for the assignment, I did make a few that I thought were worth sharing.

I tried a few different ideas with some of the old heat registers on the walls. I really liked the repetitive lines and patterns in these as well as the texture of the metal.

This old typewriter made for an interesting subject as well:

One of my favourite photos, and the one I submitted for the assignment came from this lamp that was hanging in one of the rooms. This one was made by shooting through the hanging red tassels and focusing on the beads of the pull chain of the lamp. Using a very shallow depth of field with my macro lens, the foreground just turned into this beautiful wash of red. The outline of the tassels on the opposite side can be seen in the background in orange as they are lit up by the light bulb inside the lamp. I left my white balance set to daylight to bring out the really orange colour of the lamp light to work with the red colour of the shade.

This next one was made by shooting up into the same lamp, again using daylight white balance for that orange background behind the beads of the pull chain.

This last one was just a simple capture of the neatly placed napkin inside my wine glass at the table as we waited for breakfast to be served. And no, we weren’t drinking wine with breakfast… the glass was later filled with orange juice.

Photo of the Week: Week 37

After about a month or so, I was finally able to get back out to the Rockies for some shooting this week. Shooting on the prairies and working on those images lately has been a great change of pace for me, but it sure felt good to spend some time out in the mountains again this week. This was just a little detail image I shot near Bow Lake shortly after sunrise. With clear skies above and windy conditions on the lake, I decided not to bother shooting the classic Bow Lake sunrise shot and to look elsewhere for something more interesting. Actually, I even had a little nap and some breakfast first! I ended up not even taking a single shot of Crowfoot Mountain or the lake and the glaciers. It’s amazing what you can find when when you pull yourself away from the obvious shots and look a little deeper at what’s around you. I found this bed of cracked mud in an area nearby that I thought had some potential so I ended up spending most of my time working in this little spot. While this image certainly doesn’t have the wow factor that a dramatic sunrise image at Bow Lake can, I still like it for the more subtle and simple feel it has. And besides, I didn’t have a big dramatic sunrise to shoot that morning, so how much sense would it have made for me to spend the time and effort setting up for that shot only to bring back a lacklustre image? I’m learning that it isn’t always about the big light and wow factor, and that the more I let go of always trying to bring back those type of images, the more free I am to explore and find meaningful images no matter what the conditions.

Thanks for stopping in, I hope you enjoy this one.

Headlights, Tail lights, and Door Handles

Continuing along with the posting of my images from the oopoomoo workshop a couple weeks back, this instalment is all about the old cars we found at the auto wrecker’s. As I mentioned earlier, Darwin and Sam had lined up an awesome selection of shooting locations for the workshop and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. We were there after a rainy morning with overcast skies and a nice breeze. It was just the perfect light and conditions with the wet grass, soft even light, and saturated colours of the cars. After 4 hours of shooting, many of us were wondering where the time had gone and wishing we could stay longer! It was easy just to lose yourself wandering through the aisles of old abandoned cars making images. I ended up spending most of my time in just one small corner of the place with a small row of particularly old cars and had to remind myself to go look around some more and try to see what else I could find. While I’m pleased with the results, in looking back at my images now, I feel like I only just scratched the surface of what could be done there.

Photo of the Week: Week 36

This week’s photo is yet another image from the oopoomoo workshop last week. On Saturday afternoon we spent a couple of hours at the Trochu Arboretum which was a very interesting and beautiful location. The manicured gardens, pathways, ponds, and colourful flowers held so much potential for images but surprisingly, this proved to be one of the most challenging shoots for us. We were there in the middle of the afternoon in harsh sunlight on a very windy day which made things very difficult. It was a real challenge to find and isolate subjects from within the overall scene and a great exercise in developing our eye for truly seeing. Right near the end of our time there, I found this group of lilies which happened to be in the shade of some trees above. I began by working on some images of the colourful petals of the flowers which were what originally caught my eye. I made a couple of decent looking shots but wasn’t totally satisfied with what I was getting. Eventually, I noticed the stamen hanging down below the body of the flower and really liked the curving lines they created. I decided on this composition which only showed a portion of the stamen and isolated the curving lines against the background. From there it was just a matter of focusing and waiting for a break in the breeze to make the shot.

I hope you enjoy this one, I think it’s probably one of my favourites from the trip.

Old Buildings on the Prairies

Here are some more images from the oopoomoo workshop last week, this time I’ve selected a few of my favourites of some of the old buildings we had a chance to photograph. The historic buildings from the original townsite of Trochu are actually on the site of the St. Ann Ranch where we stayed for the weekend so we had plenty of access to explore and shoot. I regret not making more images of these great old buildings actually, there was so much potential for great images with all of the historic furnishings, unique textures, colours, and character so well preserved. These weren’t the only cool old buildings we saw though, I also made some images of a couple of other old buildings we came across at some of the other shooting locations we visited.

This first one was a shot that Wayne Simpson and I worked on together. This is an 8 minute exposure of the old post office building that we light painted. Wayne lit the front of the building and walk way with a flash light and I ran in the back door with an off camera flash and popped flashes into the ceiling to light the interior.

This next one was the first shot I made on the first night of the trip. We had just a few moments of great low angled light and I was able to capture this old collapsing structure before the sun dipped behind the clouds. I got lucky, it’s not very often my first click on an outing is worth much… it’s almost always guaranteed to be a throw away!

Here’s another take on the same scene:

I really enjoyed working with some of the details of the wood grain, paint, and texture of these great old buildings:

This image was a bit of a surprise when the ghost of Darwin made an appearance!

Prairie Landscapes

Here are some more images from the workshop last week with oopoomoo. Sam and Dawrin lined up a great selection of shooting locations that included vast farmland and fields, wind turbines, and the amazing Dry Island Buffalo Provincial Park. These images below are some of my favourites from these awesome prairie locations.
We also made images at the local Arboretum, an auto wrecker’s yard, and the historic old buildings of the original town of Trochu which I’ll be sharing soon. Stay tuned for more…

I hope you enjoy these!

Photo of the Week: Week 35

Last week I enjoyed attending the “Badlands, Buicks and Old Buildings: The Prairie Tour” workshop put on by Darwin Wiggett and Samantha Chrysanthou (collectively known as Oopoomoo) in the Trochu area of Alberta. Were based out of the wonderful St. Ann Ranch in Trochu and from there we visited a bunch of different nearby locations to shoot photos. Darwin and Sam are truly excellent at what they do on these workshops and I would highly recommend to any photographer of any skill level that they attend one of the many workshops they offer (see their website for more details). I’ve always known them to be excellent photographers and teachers (Darwin is probably one of my biggest influences) but to see them in action in this context as workshop leaders has even further increased my level of respect for them.

I have many images to go through and process and I’m excited to share some of this new material with you. Being that I normally spend most of my shooting time out in the mountains, this subject matter is quite different from what I’m used to. I’ll be posting some more images in the days to come, but for now here is this week’s photo of the week of a classic prairie scene.

I really liked the kind of crazy looking leaning fence post so I singled it out from the rest of the fence and tried to use it as an anchor and leading line into the image. I purposely tried to create triangles using the diagonal lines within the composition to lead your eye up and through the frame. To add a little more interest, I used a solid neutral density filter on this one to give me a longer exposure and blur the motion of the grass blowing in the foreground.

Thanks for stopping in, and stay tuned for more from the workshop coming soon!

Photo of the Week: Week 34

I made this image last week on a quick overnight trip out to Kananaskis Country. I’d been to this particular creek once before but didn’t have time to hike in very far and basically just had to shoot from the road. I wanted to explore a little further this time so I left myself some more time and tried hiking up the valley. I was hoping that by gaining some elevation I might get up to a point where the view of the mountain wasn’t quite so blocked by the trees in the valley bottom. While it was a good thought, it was unfortunately pretty tough bush whacking through really dense brush and very slow going. After fighting my way up and really not making much progress I decided it just wasn’t going to happen and turned around. Realizing I was going to miss the sunset light on the hike back down and not having much of a backup location in mind, I had to make the best of what I had here in this tough spot. I stopped at a couple points along the creek to shoot some pictures and this one was about the best I came up with.

As I was heading back to the road, I moved away from the creek and to my surprise found a perfectly good trail heading up the valley… Isn’t that always the way it goes? I guess I’ll have to go back and try it again without the bushwhacking!

Photo of the Week: Week 33

This week’s photo comes to you from the Icefields Parkway once again (can you tell I like it up there?), this time from the Rampart Ponds area. This was taken shortly after sunrise once the light had made it’s way down to the valley bottom and my breakfast and coffee had made it’s way into my stomach. The fog behind the trees and the shape of the clouds were what caught my eye, along with the perfect reflection in the smooth water. Despite the rule that you should never place the horizon in the middle of the frame, I did it anyway to emphasize the symmetry of the shot.
I was fortunate with this one, because only moments later the wind picked up, the water got rough, the reflection disappeared, and the fog cleared out. Just like that, the shot was gone and I was glad to have captured it when I did. It’s amazing how quickly things can change out there, I guess that’s part of what makes it so exciting and satisfying when you can seize on of these beautiful moments.

Thanks for stopping in, I hope you like this one.